US Coins

Master die exists at Philadelphia Mint for 1964 Peace dollar

A die vault at the Philadelphia Mint securely holds a single obverse master die intended for making working dies that were used to strike possibly the rarest issue in all of U.S. numismatics — the 1964-D Peace dollar.

No obverse working dies are known to still exist, according to U.S. Mint Curator Robert Goler.

No reverse dies are known, nor are any examples of the struck 1964-D Peace dollars publicly known to exist. There isn’t an example in the National Numismatic Collections at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History nor any held at the U.S. Mint.

However, a Mint photo of the master die was released.

On March 10, 2020, numismatist Daniel Carr from the private Moonlight Mint in Colorado, posted information on the Collectors Universe U.S. Coins Forum, that in late 2019 he had obtained from the Mint an image of a 1964 Peace dollar master die. The die was unused.

Carr noted that speculation has raged in the numismatic community for years as to what the actual coins looked like.

The contention was that U.S. Mint Engraver Frank Gasparro or another Mint employee circa 1964–1965 likely had re-sculpted sculptor Anthony DeFrancisci’s original work, resulting in design differences from the original.

Carr said his comparison of the 1964 die image to images of 1934 and 1935 Peace dollars indicates the design details match exactly. There is no known imagery of the 1964-D Peace dollar reverse, but, according to Carr, “based on the fact that the obverse was directly based on the 1934–1935 version, it is reasonable to assume that the 1964 reverse would have also been directly based on the reverse of 1934–1935.

“Some 1935-S Peace Dollars have an extra 4th ray below ‘ONE.’ Other coins of this period (1934, 1934-D, 1934-S, 1935, and most 1935-S) do not have the 4th ray. It is still unknown if the original 1964 Peace Dollars had the 4th ray or not.”

Call for dollars

During a nationwide coin shortage, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law Aug. 3, 1964, legislation that called for the production of 45 million silver dollars. However, no silver dollars were actually struck during calendar year 1964.

Because the last designs used were for the Peace dollar, last struck dated 1935, officials determined the Peace designs would continue for the 1964-dated releases.

It was originally determined, according to Q. David Bowers in Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of the United States, that once the Philadelphia Mint finished its production mission late in 1964 to alleviate coin shortages, production would begin on the Peace dollar output. Production was delayed until May 1965, when President Johnson ordered the production to begin.

In total, 316,076 Peace dollars bearing the 1964 date were struck, at the Denver Mint only, and bearing the D Mint mark on the reverse.

Researcher Roger W. Burdette, in A Guide Book of Peace Dollars, states that 322,394 Peace dollars dated 1964-D were struck at the Denver Mint between May 13 and May 24, 1965. Collectors patiently awaited the release of the coins for examples to add to their collections, but the coins never were distributed.

The Coinage Act of July 23, 1965, prohibited the minting of any standard silver dollars for a further five-year period.

Because of the act’s prohibition and the ongoing coin shortage, direction was given that all of the silver dollars were to be destroyed.

None of the production was saved for historical purposes, not even for the National Numismatic Collection.

Bowers wrote in his silver dollar reference that Denver dealer Dan Brown told him that the then Denver Mint superintendent, Fern Miller, had permitted the facility’s employees to obtain examples of the 1964-D Peace dollars at face value, as it was customary to allow the acquisition on any new coinage struck.

“No thought was given that they would not be released,” Bowers wrote. “When it was determined the issue would be melted, the superintendent requested that all pieces be returned. Whether or not any escaped has been a matter of debate ever since. ...”

Numismatic sleuthing

In 2015, Bowers, Whitman Publishing publisher Dennis Tucker, numismatic researcher and author John Dannreuther, and Littleton Coin Company President David Sundman visited the Philadelphia Mint while conducting research for the fifth edition of A Guide Book of Morgan Silver Dollars.

The visit resulted in the surprising discovery of galvanos, dies and other tooling for production of 1964 Morgan dollars, although struck coins of that design are not believed to have been produced.

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